In an alternate (possibly future) reality a software programmer creates an interactive (Virtual Reality) program for an aristocrat's daughter and secretly makes one for his own daughter. The secret copy falls into the hands of an abused little girl, who succeeds in coming of age via the program, and becomes the heroine, in a cultural war. The program molds the mind of the girl, and empower her, to such a degree that she is able to prevent genocide.
This report prepared by Pete McKenna
A little girl reads a book that teaches her all about life. Sound boring? It's NOT, but that is the story at the heart of Stephenson's stunning novel. It is the mid 21st century, and ethnic and power groups are organized into communities ("claves") across the globe. The wealthier, more powerful ones live on mountains and even cities that float in air. An engineer named Hackworth has been commissioned by Lord Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw to design a "Young Lady's Illustrated Printer" that will teach the lord's daughter all about life. The book is designed to imprint on the first young woman who picks it up, and immediately creates myths, folktales, and other stories starring that girl which constantly adapt to her age and knowledge base, and teach her to read, think critically, fight and defend herself, etc. Hackworth makes a pirated copy of the book to take home to his own daughter but gets mugged on the way, and his teenage attacker takes the pirated Primer home to give to his little sister, Nell. Other powerful interests, from the mysterious Chinese scientist-criminal known as Dr. X, to the lords of a retro clave modeled on Victorian values and manners, become aware of these developments and get involved. Miranda, an actress in "ractives" (interactive scenarios) becomes the primary voice of the stories in Nell's Primer, and eventually devotes all her work time to becoming Nell's surrogate mother. There are street fights, undersea cities, old-fashioned myths in the Primer (and new-fashioned ones, too, such as the visit to robot-populated "Castle Turing"), trips to London, Vancouver, and Shanghai, sly in-jokes (in the thick of a street battle, a middle-aged Boer man is pleased to find his team includes armed Zulus), and much much more in this marvel of a book.
This report prepared by David Loftus
In this amazing tour-de-force, Neal Stephenson describes our world after nanotechnology has revolutionised every aspect of it, & introduces us to members at polarised ends of the class divide: Nell, a young "thete" who comes into possession of a "magic" book created by John Percival Hackworth an artifex for the New Victorians. How this book changes both Nell & society will astound & enrapture you.